Bhutan reopened its doors to travellers on 23rd September 2022. You’re no longer required to quarantine on arrival and COVID-19 vaccination requirements have been lifted. However, you may be subject to random RT-PCR testing at the airport.
Bhutan Reopens with New Entry Requirement
Bhutan renewed its commitment to conserve the environment, preserve its cultural heritage and prioritise tourism infrastructure development and services for its valued guests.
Accordingly, the government raised its sustainable development fee (SDF) to US$200 per day for an adult, up from US$65 before the pandemic. The SDF is a daily levy visitors must pay to visit Bhutan. The change is expected to discourage mass tourism and help minimize the environmental and cultural impact of tourism.
The increase in price does come with benefits for visitors. Before the pandemic, all trips to Bhutan had to be booked through a local travel agent. You can now apply for a travel visa online and visit Bhutan on your own. Furthermore, you are no longer required to follow a pre-approved itinerary or be escorted by a local tour guide 24/7.
However, if you wish to visit destinations beyond Thimphu and Paro or if you’re planning to go on a day hike or a multi-day hike, you must be escorted by a local tour guide. You must also be accompanied by a tour guide to enter the monuments.
These regulations are in place for your safety and to ensure appropriate social conduct is observed in areas of cultural significance.
Applying for Visa Online
To process your visa online, you’ll need a passport (must have at least six months validity), travel insurance, arrival and departure dates, and payment details.
As part of your visa requirement, you must pay a one-time visa fee of US$40 and a sustainable development fee of US$200 per day for adults and US$100 for children aged 6 to 12. Children under the age of 6 are exempt from paying the SDF.
You can expect your travel visa within 5 business days.
Altitude sickness is a risk above 2500m. If your itinerary includes visits to high-altitude areas, we recommend you discuss your travel plans with your doctor.
Dengue and malaria outbreaks occur during the summer season, consider taking anti-malarial medication.
If you’re seriously injured or ill, you may need medical evacuation from high altitude or out of Bhutan, ensure your travel insurance covers this and all adventure activities you plan on doing in Bhutan.
Crime rates are low in Bhutan and violent crime is rare. Petty crimes occur, such as theft, pickpocketing, and burglary. Don’t leave your belongings unattended.
Do not pet or feed stray dogs and keep your distance especially if you’re traveling with children.
Flooding and landslides are common during monsoon season. Plan your travel outside of the monsoon period, if possible, otherwise limit your travel to western Bhutan (Thimphu and Paro) during these seasons.
Bhutan's reopening is just in time for a series popular cultural events across the country. Some of the most popular ones to consider are:
Punakha Drubchen (24th February – 28th February 2023)
The Drubchen is an annual winter festival held at Punakha Dzong in Punakha valley. It is one of the most beautiful and significant Dzongs in Bhutan. The event commemorates the founder of Bhutan and the local militia known as “pazaps” for successfully defending the nation and national treasure against the Tibetan invasion in the 17th century.
Visitors from the nearby district of Gasa and the highlanders from Laya join the locals in Punakha to celebrate the festival. The highlight of the Drubchen is the recreation of the 17th-century battle scene.
The visit to the warm valley of Punakha offers a much-needed respite from the cold winter days of Thimphu and Paro valley.
Paro Tsechu (2nd April – 6th April 2023)
It is arguably the most popular mask dance festival in Bhutan. The event is a grand display of Buddhist heritage and celebrates centuries-old traditions.
Monks take the centre stage wearing colourful silk costumes and masks depicting deities, demons, and animals from Buddhist mythology. They perform a series of dances and recreate Buddhist legends. The event concludes with an unfurling of giant applique to bless the congregation.
The festival seasons get busy, and flights and hotel rooms tend to get sold out early, we advise you to plan and book your trip early to attend these events. If you’re looking for a hassle-free booking experience and a memorable trip, consider our Punakha Drubchen Tour or our Paro Tsechu Tour.
Book My Tour and Travel is a local travel company based in Bhutan. We’ve been helping international visitors plan their best trips to Bhutan since 2012.